How ‘The Block’ has saved a famed St Kilda strip

Host Scott Cam with the five teams on the first day of filming for season 14 of Channel 9’s The Block at The Gatwick Hotel.

THE Block’s overhaul of the infamous Gatwick Hotel is expected to boost St Kilda’s housing market and hospitality scene, ultimately making Fitzroy St “as popular as Chapel St”.

Property experts say “the Gatwick effect” — a renaissance of the once-thriving dining strip and its surrounds tipped to follow the rooming house’s closure and redevelopment — has started in anticipation of the show’s return to Channel 9.

Off-screen, the five teams have turned the former hotbed of violence and drug use into a high-end apartment complex.

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The Block regular, Advantage Property Consulting director Frank Valentic, says the finished products ooze wow factor, with the top-floor pads boasting city views and high ceilings, and those on the first and second floors offering huge 250sqm of space that make them “the biggest apartments in Block history”.

Channel 9’s The Block’s latest project is renovating The Gatwick Hotel in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda. Picture: Ian Currie.

Valentic and agents Michael Townsend of McGrath and David Wood of Hocking Stuart agree the fully furnished flats should each fetch more than $2.5 million each.

CoreLogic records show Channel 9 paid $10 million for the heritage building, which was built as a luxury hotel in 1937, but came to be viewed by locals and the state government as an epicentre of crime.

“A lot of local families would avoid it. The shop vacancy rate in that part of Fitzroy St at one point got to 20 per cent, due to the lack of foot traffic,” Townsend says.

The former Gatwick hotel owners Rose Banks and Yvette Kelly say goodbye to their iconic building.

“Now we’re seeing ‘leased’ signs in the windows of shops that have been vacant for some time.”

Valentic says The Block team “had left a positive mark wherever they’ve gone”, breathing new life into South Yarra’s seedy Hotel Saville in 2015 and a derelict Port Melbourne soap factory in 2016.

Wood — who sold Josh Barker and Elyse Knowles’s Block winning Elsternwick reno for $3.067 million last year — expects the latest project to restore Fitzroy as an eat street “as popular as the top end of Chapel St in Windsor”.

The Block winners Josh and Elyse’s made a big profit when they auctioned their house in Coburg following their appearence on The Block. Picture: David Crosling.

If the house-sized flats sold well at their televised auctions, it could inject confidence into St Kilda and St Kilda West’s housing markets, he says.

Townsend says now is “a great time to buy St Kilda”, which also has The Espy hotel reopening, a $550 million beachside apartment development and The Block’s rumoured next project, the “scummy” Oslo Hotel on Grey St, to look forward to.

This article from The Herald Sun originally appeared as “The Gatwick effect: How The Block has saved a famous St Kilda strip”.